Mind Body Connection
Today I am pleased to have a guest post by Lyn Delmastro-Thomson
I learned from a very young age how interconnected my mind and my body really are. At the age of 12, I started developing horrific migraine headaches. They were excruciating and none of the medications I was given to take at home made a dent in my pain so I would end up going to the emergency room on a fairly regular basis for a shot of Demerol.
As you can probably imagine, the regular headaches and trips to the ER were very distressing to me and I developed a lot of anxiety and fear about when my next headache would strike and what it would disrupt me from doing. The anxiety and fear were not helpful in preventing headaches and they certainly were not helpful when I would feel one coming on…
Over the course of a few years, I came to see that I could work myself into such a stressed and anxious state at times that I could bring on a headache or other physical symptoms like an upset stomach. This was how I began to understand that my mind could directly influence my body.
Because my doctor was a migraine sufferer too and he understood the role of anxiety and stress in developing or worsening headaches, he recommended I go for biofeedback sessions. During these sessions, I began to learn that I could use my mind in a positive way to influence my body. Through the power of my mind, I could increase the temperature in my hands, something research had also found to be helpful to people with migraines. However, since I was just in my early teens and my headaches were still sending me to the ER, I was not able to stay calm enough to trust that what I had learned could stop or at least significantly lessen the intensity of my headaches and therefore they continued to be a problem.
Over the course of several years, I started to learn that staying calm was a key to helping to make my headaches manageable. By the time I graduated from high school, I didn’t have to go to the emergency room with migraines anymore. I still got them but between taking some medication, trying to relax and stay calm, and going and laying down, they were at the level that I could tolerate them at home.
As time passed, my headaches became a much less significant part of my life and now I rarely get one. However, in my mid-20s, I was given another opportunity to understand more about the connection between my mind and my body. At the age of 24, I was diagnosed with several major health problems and once again I began to have a great deal of anxiety. I worried what these diagnoses would mean for my future and my I began to develop panic attacks and generalized anxiety.
I returned to working with a biofeedback therapist to help me learn to manage my anxiety as I didn’t want to become dependent on medications. It was during this second round of biofeedback that things really started to click for me on a deeper level. I had always had the experience of my mind influencing my body in a negative way but through the breathing exercises and other techniques that I learned during those sessions, I began to truly see the power of my mind in controlling my body in a positive way. Just as anxiety and fear could work me up into a state where I would get a headache or other physical symptoms, deep calm could make my body feel truly relaxed and as a result I felt good in my body.
All of these experiences at a young age made me very curious about the interconnection of the mind and the body and I decided to pursue a master’s degree in somatic psychology, which is a mind-body approach to psychology. To me, it doesn’t make sense to separate the mind and the body, seeing various doctors for physical problems and a psychologist or psychiatrist for mental and emotional issues.
In my work with clients today, I often see just how interconnected the mind and body are. Sometimes the body is what is left to express what is going on in the mind. If we are not paying attention to the fact that we are on the wrong path in life (like I was when I got so sick at the age of 24), our body will begin to bring this to light through various symptoms and illnesses.
“The body never lies.” ~ Martha Graham
So the next time you experience a physical symptom like pain or you begin to get sick, perhaps it would be beneficial to pause and ask yourself, “What is my body trying to communicate to me?” Rather than trying to silence the symptom, get curious about what it has to tell you and as you listen to that, you might find that it goes away on its own.
Lyn Delmastro-Thomson has a master’s in somatic psychology and is a Certified BodyTalk Practitioner. She specializes in helping women who are feeling derailed by stress, anxiety, and illness and who have tried various other approaches without results to move forward with living the lives they really want. Learn more at www.bodytalkportland.com